The Great Plotnik

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Bye Bye to Brooklyn (For a Short Time)

It was hard to say good-bye to the Brooklyn Plotniks this morning, but there was time to pose for a few photos.

Then Plot and Duck hauled their roller bags onto the C Train with a few hundred thousand of their new close friends, and got out at 8th Avenue and 34th Street to walk down a few blocks and pick up the Megabus, which was an hour late, but the earlier bus was too, and was still sitting there, which meant the bus they got on left right on time. And here we are in D.C., in Patsy's kitchen on Harvard Street, smelling country style ribs cooking as we look forward to hanging out with the K-Dog tonight.

Last night: blintzes and borscht from Veselka. Wild-eyed Ukrainians and lots of sour cream and beets, plus Plotnik in the hat he would steal from PD in a heartbeat if it were a little bit bigger. The part Plottie doesn't like is he's getting old enough to start looking good in a hat.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

It Doesn't Work on the Phone

The Great Dance-nik came over on Sunday afternoon and we all took a ride into Bed-Stuy to try the pizza at Saraghina's. It looks like a midwestern outbuilding from the 1950s from out in front, but once you walk inside and pass the Latino guys making up one of their eight or so pizzas, to be cut into slices by either the MEAT pizza cutter or the NO MEAT pizza cutter, you come out onto a lovely outside patio with room enough for everyone to sit and take their time drinking a carafe of house red and eating mussels, zuchinni flowers and pizza. The margherita is not as spectacular as DiFara (nothing is), but the cappacola and artichoke pizza is another story. Yum. Unfortunately there was only one of those and Plotnik had to pull rank to get two slices.

But heck, it was his and Duck's 40th. Plottie deserved those two slices. Ducknik and he drank wine and ate pizza with their kids and old friends Dance-Nik and Mo-nee, and Plot cannot think of anything he'd rather have done with the day.

BZ took an early train back to Providence Monday morning and Plot bought two tickets on the Megabus to ride down to DC Thursday morning.

The bus costs $30 for two tickets. They could take a train for $160. Or a plane for $266-$480. Fifteen bucks each on a fast bus, and you only have to be there fifteen minutes ahead of time. Add it up. Why would anyone NOT take the bus? And why don't we have cheap Chinatown-style buses for travel between cities on the West Coast?

Monday afternoon the Great PD had off so Plot, Duck, 5H and PD drove up to Jackson Heights in Queens, which now appears to be 99% Indian. They walked through a rain storm and into a small cafe for chai, masala dosas, samosas and mango lassis.

Is there anything on Earth that is not available in a store in Jackson Heights? Probably not, but you won't find a tree to sit under unless Dr. Gupta has one in his back yard. Every other building in Jackson Heights has a sign out for a Dr. Gupta.

Today was a museum day -- up to the Photographic Institute to see the long-lost Spanish Civil War photos of three photographers who all died taking them. The photos were interesting but not as interesting as the show downstairs on the Cuban Revolution. You look at young Fidel and Che and Camilo Cienfuegos and you see a bunch of really young guys with thick beards and guns and romance and lots of girls to adore them and a brand new country of their own to figure out what to do with. You really can't help envy them, nor blame them too much for trying out a new idea, even though, like all political ideologies, it turned into a personal ego-fest after awhile.

A gloomy afternoon. Even the Empire State Building was fogged over.

At Duck's urging, Plot and she tried out the NEW Second Avenue Deli for lunch. The old one, in the East Village, was Duck's very favorite pastrameria (Plot has always preferred Katz's), but after the owner was murdered taking out the night's receipts, the Second Avenue closed and remained closed for at least five years. Now it's back, but it's not near Second Avenue anymore and the pastrami is, at best, a pale imitation of the old days. It looks good. But you don't smell the meat and pickles when you walk in, and, trust Plottie, you don't taste it either.

Plot and Duck then walked over to Teddy Roosevelt's birthplace, a mansion on East 20th St. Teddy is the only American President to have been born in New York City.

New York. It is starting to feel like the Brooklyn Plotniks are going to stay awhile. Tomorrow is the start of the third year on the job for The Great PD and they and Dance-Nik happen to live in one of the coolest neighborhoods in the five boroughs. It usually takes people five years or so to have the fun/shithole scale switch from one side to the other. It took Plottie six years, but then again he and Ducknik moved away as soon as she was pregnant with The Great PD.

Isabella is certainly thriving here. If she starts school and makes friends then PD and 5H will make friends with her friends' parents. Life starts to get a little easier. Plot and Duck take more frequent trips and stay for more time.

But Plotnik looks at those old brownstones in Bed-Stuy and he starts to feel --- just a little bit -- the building fever again. Four floors? Two for the family, one for Plot and Duck and BZ when they come to visit and one to rent out?

And more nights like this one -- PD and 5H go to the John Stewart Show and Plot and Duck pick up Isabella at day care, bring her home, give her some sushi and put her to bed. Her parents get home. They all shmooze. What did you do today? How was the Daily Show? What did Isabella have for dinner?

Plotnik is no talker on the phone. You can't do this on the phone. You can't.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


We interrupt our current story to present images gathered of The Great BZWZ's expedition to Jordan this summer.

It all looks nothing short of astonishing -- you walk through The Eye of the Needle -- bascially one of many channels carved over millennia by water eroding soft sandstone --

...and come upon this.

If you look to the side of the above photos you see these small squares snaking up the side of the stone next to the structures -- those are the marks left by the original Nabataean builders which most likely allowed them to climb up the rocks to the top of their proposed structures, and then build down to the ground.

It was a lot of fun to look at these photos together the other night, and many more besides. The Great Dance-Nik was in attendance. More on that maƱana.

Monday, September 27, 2010

An Afternoon in Dumbo

No, it wasn't intentional and thanks for pointing it out PP. The computer has never posted anything on its own before -- so probably it didn't this time either. We don't know exactly what happened, but what we do know is it was a lot of fun playing around in the park earlier in the day.

The thing that has always been true about The Apple is that there is so little nature in everyone's personal living space, that when you get a chance to sit in the park by the river on a beautiful Saturday you really do appreciate it.

That's Plotnik posing with the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges, and below The Great FiveHead walks with her man and BellyBone attaches herself to her Auntie B.

If you squint you might make out the Statue of Liberty in the very center of the photo, out beyond where Plot, BZ, BB and PD sit enjoying the view and the breeze.

It can tucker you out though.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

A Beautiful Night for a Birthday

It was balmy and breezy last night on Second Avenue and Fourth Street in the East Village, as Plot and Duck said good-night to the Great Birthday Boy and The Great Five Head. They were turning uptown to go dancing at a club in Harlem that doesn't start playing Afro-Beat until midnight, and Plot and Duck were turning downtown to head back to Brooklyn, take off their shoes and ransom Isabella by paying off the well-remunerated baby sitter. BZWZ was meeting old friends after dinner and she was to head up to Harlem later to hook up with PD and 5H.

Dinner was at a friend's quite handsome restaurant, someone whose child is a friend of Isabella, but Belly didn't get to come. Perhaps this is because she's not even four yet, but perhaps it has a little to do with how she managed to use PD's I-Phone at the restaurant the night before last, punch in his secret code, which she somehow knew, and order herself a present that nobody knows what it is yet. PD caught her as she was pressing Y, as in ARE YOU SURE YOU WISH TO PLACE THIS ORDER? (Y).

No lie. Plotnik's grand-daughter is figuring stuff out really early.

The restaurant specializes in pork, but there really wasn't all that much pork on the menu. The real surprise of the evening was sea urchin, kind of spread out in its briny tastiness on pieces of toast; Jerusalem artichokes, chewy and a little weird while also being a little delicious; and everybody raved over the sardines. Plotnik thought the sardines, while better than most sardines, still tasted like sardines.

The restaurant is on E. 4th Street, not too far from Plot and Duck's old apartment on E. 10th St. So many people on the street, so many outdoor cafes, all filled; so many taxis and trucks and cars, so much garbage packed into so many black bags piled up on the sidewalk, so many young skinny girls teetering on the breeze in stiletto heels and tight dresses, so many big bouncers in black suits and ties outside the clubs, such a beautiful night and so many people out to enjoy it.

The lights of Manhattan (lots) and Brooklyn (less) from the Manhattan Bridge.

All the cabbies -- Plot was one of those once. All the guys walking in tuxes carrying instruments -- Plot was one of those too, though he usually played when he was gigging in New York, meaning he didn't have to lug any instruments with him and the clubs supplied the p.a. systems. Before that, with his first bands in NYC, when he was playing guitar, and when he got paid from a club at 3am, he'd put the cash in his pocket, figuring if he put the money in his guitar case and somebody robbed him of one of his guitars, he'd lose everything.

It's nice when you know the restaurant owner who is also the chef, so he comps you to appetizer after appetizer and comes out to chat about who's got the best pizza in Brooklyn and who isn't talking to whom.

At just short of 2am, the baby sitter paid off and put in a cab, Isabella asleep in her folks' bed under the air conditioner, the phone rings and it's BZ, on her way home in a taxi. Plot will answer the buzzer in half an hour and ring her in.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

FiveHead Rescues Belly's Hand

This is not where the Plotniks ate dinner last night. Ninety nine BILLION! Can anyone comprehend this?

Instead, Six Plots and Charlie, BZ and the Plotniks' old high school friend, went to Pisticci in BZ's first NYC neighborhood, under the elevated #1 Train tracks near the 125th St. Station. What a great place, the kind of restaurant that doesn't exist in Saint Plotniko. Their food is absolutely stellar, but there's no bullsh__ about which farmer grew which organic radish leaf adorning the free range salami. Oops, I mean Salumi.

Nah, just incomparably good pasta and great drinks and a wonderful time. This was to celebrate BZ's birthday two weeks ago.

Waiting on the elevated tracks after dinner it was cool and balmy...

..., but heading uptown earlier in Rush Hour it was absolute hell. The #1 train was so crowded that Plot, 5H, PD, B-Bone and her stroller had to push and push just get the last possible space before they closed the subway door, with all of us levered against it in the crowd. Belly had been napping in her dad's arms, and at the last second she stuck out her arm, just as the door closed. Her hand and hair were now stuck in the door.

The Great FiveHead SCREAMED! (Remember: packed rush hour subway car.) At the same time she thrust her finger between the doors and pried it open. The car started then stopped and the door opened. Belly's hand was retrieved with no marks, but The Great 5H will not forget this one quickly. It took her wine and slurps of ginger snap whiskies to recover fully.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Who's Taller?

Who's taller, Ducknik or Isabella?

So Plotnik wanted to cook for the family last night, and the default meal of choice in a meat-deprived household is salmon. On the way to pick up Isabella at school Plot and Duck stopped in a little deli slash cafe for a snack, on the corner of Greene and Grand, where they had a fresh fish counter.

It is still amazing to Plotnik that a deli slash cafe could possibly be where this deli slash cafe is. A still-hot transmission chop shop, yes. Man, someone is sounding old around here.

They had nice mozzarella and basil flatbread sandwiches and an olive bar and a young guy at the fish counter fish guy who admitted that their wlld salmon, which looked like it had been in there awhile, had. And it was quite pricey for several day-old salmon. Plot bought some olives and a sandwich, passed on the fish.

On the walk back to Clinton Ave. they stopped at the Famous Anise -- you will only know that that rhymes if you remember Plotnik's adventure buying herbs there the last time -- actually it's an Associated Supermarket and you've got to go a long way to imagine sorrier looking fish. They were dirt cheap, but you'd be better off eating the dirt. The salmon looked like they'd taken the Chinatown Bus from Topeka. Plot bought some spinach and an apple for Isabella but no thanks to the fish from Kansas,

Then he remembered a very nice market he and Duck discovered the first time they came to Clinton Hill, and it's not too far down Lafayette, just past the Emmanuel Baptist Church where they heard that wonderful music on the morning of the New York Marathon. At the Pioneer Market they had, to Plot's joy and amazement, just received fresh wild salmon filets for not too much money and they looked great.

He knew they were fresh because the fish man stuck his nose down onto them and said "Oh, yeah! This here's what you want!"

But the deal is that in this part of Brooklyn they must have people shoplifting fresh fish, because Plot had to order the fish, watch the fish man weigh the filets, then he gave Plotnik a plastic number and Plot had to go through the line with his other groceries and the plastic card. When the checkout girl had collected the money, she called a guy over, gave him the plastic card, and the guy went and picked up the fish. It was like buying shampoo in Chile. Complicated. But that salmon was as delicious as anything Plot ever gets in S.P.

At the Walgreen's on Myrtle Avenue all the razor blades are under lock and key. You have to call a store manager over to unlock the razor blades. But, then again, it's exactly the same at the Safeway on Mission. Razor blades and film, the film that nobody ever buys anymore, still are under lock and key in Saint Plotniko grocery stores and drugstores in Clinton Hill.

That great looking old Revolutionary War-era home on Lafayette is still fabulous-looking and somewhat older then when Plot was here last. You can say the same thing for Plotnik.

He and Duck are hoping to spirit The Great Dance-Nik to the NEW FIND, the pizza parlor in Bed-Stuy that is supposedly as good as DiFara. But when Plotnik thinks of pizza parlors in Bed-Stuy he sees Danny Aiello as Sal and Spike Lee as Mookie and John Turturro and a young Samuel L. Jackson in "Do The Right Thing," one of Plotnik's favorite movies ever. Spike will never do a better one, and that sound track!

In Brooklyn, Plotnik hears the sound track in everybody's voice. This morning B-Bone was talking to Bobo and wanted to make her point, so she said: "Hold on, Bobo. Here's da deal!"

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Isabella is Learning to Skip

Isabella wants a tuna sandwich. The Plotniks stop at Subway. To get water you have to press a small lever underneath the Mr. Pibb dispenser. Every time Plottie presses the water lever, holding his cup underneath it, a chemical red liquid shoots out of the next spigot over, which is Hi-C Flaming Punch. It paints his hand bright chemical red and is very, very sticky.

Turns out the water spigot is empty and there are no restrooms in the Subway.

An elderly but well dressed woman walks in, rushes over to the soft drink dispenser, steals all the straws and runs out.

Brooklyn is nicer in the winter when it's cool than it is on the first day of autumn when it's still hot. Plot and Duck aren't used to East Hot anymore. West Hot isn't sticky, especially when you don't have Hi-C Flaming Punch sticking to your hands and wrists.

Everything is an accommodation. For this many people to live in this small a space, people have to agree. They agree they all are miserable, but that misery is ok because they are also excited to be living together where so many fascinating things happen, where so many interesting people intersect.

It is probably like this in a bee hive. We wonder why all those bees are satisfied to tuck themselves down in that hive to work for the Queen, work work work and then they die. The reason must be that they like it. There must be some secret hidden in the psyches of all living things that tells us to merge, to become part of the mass, to work work work and then when we die they give us a new gasket.

Isabella is going Brooklyn. She says "I have juice every mawning." She says "I'm holdin the doe-aw open, Mommy." It takes as long to walk from Lafayette Avenue to Myrtle Avenue with B-Bone as it would with Mummy Plotnik. She stops to look at everything. Everything. She says "Come find me, Papa. Let's take giant steps, Papa. Look at my shadow, Papa."

She wants the pumpkin-colored plastic headband at Walgreen's. "Why, of course," say Papa and Bobo. The sales clerk is a large teenager who wears a short sleeved shirt and on her arm is an enormous tattoo that says E B O N Y and is festooned with geometric shapes. On her Walgreen's shirt is a tiny white name tag that says EBONY and was probably unnecessary.

Brooklyn seems to be working class losing out to middle class. The working class is hanging on and the middle class is expanding to the East. Well, not expanding, pushing. Middle class people have discovered Bedford Stuyvesant and they are pushing the people who live there already further East. Bed-Stuy is the neighborhood of "Do The Right Thing," of endless police sirens, the place, when Plot and Duck lived in Manhattan thirty five years ago, that was all about junkies and abandoned factories and people getting in Plotnik's taxicab with a lead pipe.

Now it's all about the pizza and the beautiful old brownstones and the schools and proximity to the A Train.

If Plottie lived here now he would buy a brownstone in Bed Stuy. If you're a bee, you may as well climb on into the hive.

But The Great Plotnik is not a bee. He is a California Poppy and he's got a Queen already. And it's hot. And they haven't had any pizza yet.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


Mischief Puppy is doing fine. Isabellybone is too, but she is harder to photograph. This morning she is painting at her easel when she's not in her teepee.

There was a better picture of the artist but unfortunately her lack of pants rendered that photo unusable.

Left the house at 12:30 yesterday, got to Clinton Avenue around 12 hours later. A Greek car service driver reviewed his entire life in half an hour in a NY accent so pure and wonderful that Plontik kept asking him more questions just to keep him talking. Not that that would have been necessary.

He told about having a regular customer, an Italian guy, who owns a huge gasket company in Red Hook. He makes gaskets for everybody. He told the cab driver he was such a good driver that the gasket maker would give him his own gasket when he died.

"Wow, your own gasket, pretty slick," Plotnik said.

"I think he means casket," Duck whispered.

Plotnik asked the driver his favorite Greek bakery. He said YaYa's. "But the problem, see, is whenevuh I eat somethin frum Yaya..." The driver grabbed his heart in pain. "Hotboin," he said. "Like to kill yuh."

The Greek cookies better be really good.

Isabella is more gorgeous than ever. Maybe she'll let Plottie take a nice picture at some point.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

As Good as DiFara's? No Freaking Way.

The pants first, the shoes last. This is The Duck's mantra and it works. Pants opened up so the legs hang out the side of the suitcase, shirts and stuff rolled up and tucked on top of them, pant legs brought back in and more stuff rolled up above. Sweater on the top, shoes on very top, squashed down with all your strength, zipper of suitcase closed, zip zip that's it.

THIS YEAR WE'RE PACKING LIGHT! is always a huge lie.

But the Plotniks are getting better. They take less and less each trip, as long as you don't count the presents for Isabella. There are three birthdays to celebrate, one that happened last week (BZ), one this Saturday (PD) and one that Plot and Duck will miss for the very first time in November (BB). Plot is not feeling good about that so you can be sure the door is not closed firmly yet.

There is also the High School Reunion.

There is also DiFara's Pizza, but there are rumors of a pizza place that is AS GOOD. We'll see about that.

And an Anniversary. But Plot and Duck have decided a trip up through the redwoods sounds good to celebrate all these years of good times, so they'll do that when they get back to Northern Shmali.

Dance-Nik, we need to plan a date?

And a hearty Best of Luck to all our local baseball fans and friends. We Plotzer fans are above the name calling fray. We wish our fellow horsehiders a most successful outcome to their genuinely noble endeavors.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Nameless 'til it Opens

A playwright named lleraT nivlA yenarCcM is the hottest name in town at the moment. He has three plays opening at roughly the same time, all pieces of a trilogy. Plot and Duck saw Part Two yesterday at the cigaM, but had to catch a preview instead of the premiere since they will be on an airplane when the show opens officially. So he can't post the name or his review until Wednesday on SFTB.

Oooooh, it's strong stuff. It's been a long time, like, forever, since Plot saw a play with three black men as the cast, a black author and a Mexican-American director from Texas. Plot is wishing he could see this show with a black audience. The dialog was still a little bit ragged and he is sure he and the rest of the typically white and middle aged-plus audience missed some of the jokes. When a line or a scene has particular resonance to the audience, you pick up on it too. Yesterday, the actors looked a little bit surprised when they got a standing ovation and curtain call.

But previews are different than premieres. The actors don't discover extra craft on opening night but the excitement of a packed house always brings luster to an author's lines. Yesterday the theater was half empty, as previews always are. That's why they call 'em previews. And the show was still really good.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Hot Garlic Plot and Original Hot Plot

You remember a few weeks ago Plotnik found nice looking long red cayennes in the Farmer's Market and decided to make Louisiana Hot Plot Sauce. Two piles this size... salt, vinegar, garlic (in one batch) and several weeks steeping led to this much Hot Plot Sauce:

A regular sized bottle of Tabasco is anywhere from 3 to 5 ounces, depending on which size you buy, and one of those would last at least a year in Plot's refrigerator. You are looking at around 30 ounces of Hot Plot. The two on the right are the Hot Garlic Plot and the pint jar on the left is Original Hot Plot. He needs to decant it into small bottles with tips that allow it to slip out a drop or two at a time, because it's v e r y hot. But delicious.

Next, he's going to try and do the same thing with smoked chiles, It may not work the same way since those chiles are always dried. And then he's gonna do one with a Peruvian chile that isn't as hot but has a lot of flavor. Then he'll have around three decades worth. He's thinking it might work very successfully dropped into mouse holes.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Tornado in Brooklyn

The Great PD got into the subway to come home from work on Wednesday and when he came out of the tunnel in Brooklyn a tornado had just rolled through town. That's their car above, that that tree branch just missed. Below is somebody else's car which was next to his, where the tree took better aim.

Apparently they lost tens of thousands of trees in Brooklyn and Staten Island -- a tornado in Brooklyn? How can that happen? Where were the pointy shoe guys when you needed 'em? "Hey! You! Getouda here! Go ovuh to freakin Jersey!"

And guess whose windows got left open in whose apartment? I mean, come on! A tornado in Brooklyn?

And Plotnik had SPECIFICALLY ordered up the tornado for next Wednesday, when he and Duck will be there. You just can't count on anybody these days.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Rebecca's Off to Santa Cruz

Yes, it's impossible to believe, but Rebecca is heading off to college. The good news is she'll be at Santa Cruz which is only an hour and a half down the road. The bad news is if she's already old enough for college, then her parents and the Plotniks must be that much older too.

Plot and Duck have been measuring Rebecca and her sister Georgia on the Pantry Door of Honor since 1999 and Rebecca has moved from the bottom of the door to close to the top. Georgia looks like she might not get to the top of the door, but, as BZWZ knows, you don't have to be the tallest in the family to be the coolest.

It'll be wonderful to have Rebecca so close. She'll have a great time down at Santa Cruz, and she'd better because her sister has already claimed her bed back home. That's the way it works.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Zito and Oatmeal

Plot's seats at the Braindead game the other night were good if you wanted to watch Barry Zito warming up before the game, or the other Braindead pitchers in the bullpen. They were crappy if you cared about actually seeing what was going on in the ballgame. Eleven rows up from the field is great until something actually happens, at which point everybody between you and the action stands up or holds up some stupid sign and completely blocks your view. The tickets were marked at $38 and Plotnik paid $40 for each of them -- but unless your idea is to supply baseball tickets to your clients who think they're watching cricket, these seats are not worth owning.

Plottie bought them on Craig's List -- it was Davey Blue's birthday present, and seeing as Plot and Blue began writing their musical at a Plotzers-Phoolies playoff game a few weeks before BZWZ was born, it seemed like a great idea.

And it was -- the trolley down to and back from the game was filled with baseball fans, all anxious to talk to the two guys with Plotzer caps on (unlike the Candlestick days when Plot would have had that cap safely tucked away in his back pocket to keep from having beer poured on his head), and that was a lot of fun. The Cha Cha Bowl is not what it used to be, now that they prepare them 'way ahead of time and you just pick 'em up and head to your seats, and for an important game there were lots of aisles with no people in them.

Two fools to Plot and Blue's right were waving home-made signs which read "KUIP" and "KRUK," obviously some kind of signal to Braindead announcers Duane Kuiper and Mike Krukow. So the idea these idiots had was to convince the announcers to have a camera trained on them at some point. They would be on TV! Whoopee!

Meanwhile, they constantly blocked the vision of everyone to their left, until the orange-and-black-festooned guys in front of Plotnik told the other guys to cool it or else. There was a little arguing and Plotnik got in on it, but since he was wearing his Plotzer cap he knew he wasn't helping. But the signs came down and stayed down the rest of the game.

A Braindead crowd is not as lively as a Plotzer crowd -- you don't seem to have people from every walk of life sitting next to each other in the stadium. You don't see heavily tattooed gang guys holding their little boys on their laps next to a producer of tv commercials spooning with his poopsie from the health food store. You don't have that Latino Pride thing going on, even though the Braindeads team looks to be heavily Dominican and Venezuelan.

The seats next to Plotnik were empty until the 5th Inning, when the owner showed up, stayed 'til the 7th and then left. When Plotnik asked him why he was leaving he said "I live across the street. I just felt like taking a break," which was why he came to a perfect mind-numbingly boring baseball game and only stayed two innings.

Might not have been so boring if we could have seen anything. The good guys won. But the bad guys won last night. These two teams are as much fun to watch as oatmeal.